Written by Brittni Bresee on
July 8, 2021
Written by Brittni Bresee on:

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

You might be surprised to learn that what you eat can have a huge impact on how your brain functions. The foods we eat are broken down into glucose and fatty acids, which fuel the brain.

Here are the Top 6 Worst Foods For Your Brain

Different food types have varying effects on our brains; some lead to improved memory and mood while others trigger decline in thinking ability and increase risk of dementia.

1. Alcohol

Alcohol affects the communication pathways in your brain and can make it difficult to process new information. It’s obvious, but the more you drink over time, the harder it becomes for your brain to function.

Alcohol can also affect your mood and make you more prone to depression, anxiety disorders or suicidal thoughts.

If you drink in excess or don’t have a healthy diet while drinking alcohol, it will be harder for your brain to function at all since it’s missing vital nutrients that help the neurons communicate with one another correctly.

Numerous studies show that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to an increased risk of dementia, so it’s important to limit your intake.

Drinking too much alcohol is bad for both your brain and body with many negative effects including the inability to process information correctly as well as depression, anxiety disorders or suicidal thoughts.

2. Artificial Sweeteners

It is generally healthful to avoid soft drinks, sugar-free or not. Recent research found people who drink at least one diet soda a day are 2.9 times as likely to have a stroke or develop dementia than those who do not eat any sweetener of this kind.

The connections between dementia and diet soda consumption are not yet fully understood, but it’s known that consuming these types of drinks may have an impact on your brain.

Here is a list of 4 of the most common Artificial sweeteners and what they do to your brain:

Aspartame

It is known that aspartame can lead to increased anxiety, headaches and irritability in those who consume it regularly. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that it increases blood sugar levels?

Acesulfame-K (Sunette)

The FDA doesn’t have enough information about this sweetener to make a conclusion on what it does, but it’s possible that consuming Acesulfame-K could lead to an increased risk of cancer or other health problems.

Saccharin

Can cause weight gain and high blood pressure for those who consume a lot of saccharin regularly in their diet.

Sucralose

This artificial sweetener has been shown to affect the body’s natural ability to regulate blood sugar levels and may lead to insulin resistance.

Aspartame, Acesulfame-K (Sunette), Saccharin and Sucralose have all been linked with increased risks of cancer or other health problems so it’s best to avoid these artificial sweeteners.

3. Refined carbohydrates

While many health benefits have been linked to consuming carbs in moderation, experts caution against refined carbs. These include those that may not taste super sweet but contain a large proportion of sugar molecules or fiber like white breads and white rice.

Maintaining mental clarity is vital for performance at work as well as your quality of life outside the office.

Cereals, breads and pasta are some examples of foods that contain refined carbohydrates. These foods may provide the body with an immediate energy boost, but when they are consumed consistently, they can cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels which can lead to insulin resistance, high cholesterol levels and heart disease.

Refined carbohydrates can also interfere with how the brain functions since glucose is what the brain needs to think clearly. The more refined carbs you eat, the more difficult it is for your brain to function properly because you’re missing vital nutrients that help those neurons communicate with one another.

If you eat refined carbohydrates in excess, your brain will be unable to function properly because it’s missing vital nutrients that allow the neurons to communicate correctly and think clearly.

4. Red Meat

Red meat is high in saturated fat, which has negative effects on your health. In fact, limiting red meat is one of the key tenets of the MIND Diet, a research-based eating program that aims to keep your memory and thinking sharp.

The effects of red meat on health have been well studied.

However, most of these studies are observational in nature and can only detect associations not predict causation.

If you care about your heart, cancer risk and general mortality, then red meat is not for you.

A number of observational studies show that red meat carries a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and death.

Nevertheless, not all red meat has the same health effects.

The 20 studies included in this past review found processed meat to be associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, but no effect was found for unprocessed red meat. (10Trusted Source).

A study published looked at 448,568 people and found that processed meat increased the risk of death while red meat (not processed) did not. (11Trusted Source).

Processed and unprocessed meats can have vastly different effects on the brain, brain function, memory and mood. So it is a good idea to learn the difference.

Observational studies seem to agree that processed meat (not unprocessed red meat) is associated with an increased risk of an early death and many diseases.

But keep in mind that these studies may have limitations too. It’s impossible to draw any strong conclusions from observational studies.

To establish cause and effect, it is essential to perform randomized controlled trials.

5. Vegetable oils

Vegetable oils should be avoided if you want to stay sharp. Why? Vegetable oil is high in omega-6s, an inflammatory fatty acid that’s linked with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and depression. When our brains are inflamed, energy production slows down and we feel mentally exhausted, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

One of the main contributing factors to cognitive decline is inflammation in the brain. A chronic low-level inflammation can lead to development of chronic neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Inflammation is also associated with depression, which has been found to be one of the most prominent causes for declining cognitive function.

Different types of food produce different levels of inflammation. Vegetable oils (including soybean oil and corn oil), are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Prolonged ingestion of large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils, plant foods or supplements may reduce inflammation.

In contrast, vegetable oils are not as good as a source for omega-3s because they take more time to change into the active form.

Omega-saturated fats, found in coconut oil and oily fish (like salmon), are healthier alternatives to vegetable oils for cognitive function.

6. Refined sugar

Sugar is often called a “drug” because it tastes so good but can trigger cravings and add extra pounds. Added sugars are particularly bad, since they contribute to inflammation in the brain and cause spikes in your blood sugar levels. This inflammatory response impacts your memory and mood, increasing your risk of dementia as well.

Refined sugar has also been linked to increasing inflammation in the body. When the brain becomes inflamed, it is more susceptible to developing diseases like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

A recent study found that people who had the highest intakes of sugar were twice as likely to develop dementia than those with lower intake levels. This is a serious side effect that could be easily averted by ensuring your diet has healthy, natural sugars.

Your brain is more important than the taste of sugar!

Great Alternatives To Refined Sugar

There are plenty of amazing alternatives to refined cane sugar out there. Many of them come from plants, including coconut sugar, and agave nectar.

And they are all great for your brain.

Coconut sugar is a low glycemic index sweetener that does not cause spikes in blood sugar levels, making it an excellent alternative to cane sugar for those with diabetes or insulin resistance as well. It also contains potassium and other minerals which are important for the health of neurons, while agave nectar has been shown to help reduce blood sugar levels for those with diabetes.

Natural sugars:

Raw honey: Raw honey is great because it is the only sugar that doesn’t require any refining and has many nutrients in it. Raw honey can be used as a sweetener, or you could add some to your tea (try Tulsi tea for an extra detox boost).

It also tastes great on toast!

Maple syrup: This tasty maple syrup is made from 100% maple sap and is a great alternative to refined sugar.

Maple syrup is also high in antioxidants, which are good for your brain health.

Agave nectar: Agave nectar comes from the same plant as tequila but has been processed differently so it can be used as a liquid sweetener without any added ingredients or chemicals.

Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar is a low glycemic index sweetener that does not cause spikes in blood sugar levels, making it an excellent alternative to cane sugar for those with diabetes or insulin resistance as well. It also contains potassium and other minerals which are important for the health of neurons, while agave nectar has been shown to help reduce blood sugar levels for those with diabetes.

Dates: Dates are naturally sweet with a high nutritional content that includes fiber, iron and potassium.

Molasses: Molasses is a by-product of sugar cane processing that can be used as an ingredient in baking or added to coffee for extra flavor. It tastes great with applesauce on toast!

Conclusion

The foods we eat are broken down into glucose and fatty acids, which fuel the brain. Different food types have varying effects on our brains; some lead to improved memory and mood while others trigger decline in thinking ability and increase risk of dementia. To find out if your your brain has the nutrients its needs, take our quiz here!

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